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Human Rights Campaign

By Lavender June 20, 2008

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You can’t drive very far these days without seeing a blue and yellow equality sticker—the powerfully simple logo of the Human Rights Campaign (HRC). The things are everywhere. But that’s just what HRC President Joe Solmonese wants, because it’s exactly where he wants equality to break out: everywhere. He searches out those places where people congregate, and then works to change them to be more equitable.

As the largest civil rights organization working to achieve equality for GLBT Americans, HRC represents more than 700,000 members and supporters across the country. At its core, HRC is a political action group. It works toward putting people in government who will be voices for equality.

HRC seeks legislative allies who have a vision to improve people’s lives by creating an environment where it is illegal to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity; where hate-based crimes are prosecuted vigorously; and where all family systems are treated with dignity and protected under the law. Because it takes a lot of time and effort to get this kind of work accomplished, the organization depends largely on its volunteer base.

Brian Gilligan began volunteering with HRC locally shortly after he moved to the Twin Cities in 2000. It helped him become part of the community, but more importantly, he got involved because he wanted to be part of, in his words, “something big, that will make a difference.”

Now serving his second term on the national HRC Board of Governors, Gilligan points out that a growing number of short- or long-term opportunities of all kinds exist for anyone to get involved.

Gilligan says, “I think the GLBT community is at an exciting crossroads. What we do today will make a difference for decades to come.”

In recent years, HRC has expanded beyond its lobbying roots, and has reached out into corporate America to do two different but related things: end discrimination in the workplace, as well as reward responsible corporate citizens by holding them up as companies where the talented workers should invest their talents, and where socially conscious consumers should invest their income.

This strategy has worked exceedingly well—so much so that HRC is having a hard time responding to companies who want to score higher on the Corporate Equality Index, a rating of US businesses on how well they treat their GLBT employees, consumers, and investors. So far, 10 Twin Cities-based corporations scored a perfect 100 on this index.

But corporate executives aren’t the only ones interested in these ratings. GLBT consumers also were very interested, so HRC created Buying For Equality.

For many of the same reasons, HRC also looked closely at health-care providers, and developed the Healthcare Equality Index, which rates US hospitals on how they treat their GLBT patients and employees. The community at-large stood up and took note as well, seeing that if a particular health-care provider didn’t treat its gay and lesbian neighbors well, others, too, likely would be treated poorly.

Without doubt, you’re enjoying the fruits of HRC’s labors in your daily life in a number of ways, but because the Twin Cities tends to be more progressive, people lose sight of the magnitude of inequalities that still need to be addressed. That makes it all the more important to get involved.

Visit www.hrc.org for more information, or to see how you can make a difference.

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